How many times have you driven past or walked down Main Street? How often have you really studied the surroundings?
The chipped tile, the unwashed window, the empty storefront…
The daily views we have pushed to the corners of our minds are the first impressions we leave to visitors of our town. I don’t mean to sound negative – downtown Tillamook has great bones and wonderful businesses – but as tourist season begins, it’s time for a thorough cleaning.
The city and the Tillamook Urban Renewal Agency (TURA) are planning a downtown cleanup day for June 16. (The date has changed since our community calendar in this week’s paper went to press).
We need you, the community, to pitch in.
We may not be able to install a new awning in a day, but we can paint, caulk, plant flowers and clean windows.
As a member of the city’s association’s committee, I pushed for this downtown cleanup day. Not only is it important to look our best for summer tourists, it’s important to get residents actively engaged in downtown. We’re asking for local volunteers to register in advance of the event by calling the Chamber of Commerce at 503-842-7525. This is a great chance to get your church/scouting group/nonprofit/business involved in the community and show pride in your town. It’s amazing what you can do with a few dozen volunteers in one afternoon.
We’re also asking building owners and renters to tell us what they’d like help with. Some things can be done with cleanup volunteers. Other projects might qualify for funding through TURA, which receives a portion of tax revenues to invest in brick and mortar improvements to the TURA district, which includes downtown.
At this point, you might ask, why do we have an urban renewal agency? Why ask the community to pitch in when private businesses and building owners should take care of their own problems?
The question was raised at our associations committee meeting, and I’ll address it briefly here.
Across the country, Main Street revitalization programs have been formed because small towns are realizing how important downtowns are to the heart of a community. Sadly, in many cases, the importance of Main Street isn’t fully appreciated until it’s almost gone.
Downtown represents our town’s past and identity. It is the heart of the city, the source of pride, the face we present to visitors, and the gathering place for community and civic affairs. It is where locally-owned and start-up businesses can thrive. It requires more than just a private investment; a healthy downtown requires a public investment as well.
There are several reasons why Tillamook’s Main Street needs our help. First, many downtown merchants are doing well just to survive, and they don’t have the resources or staff time to invest in facade improvements.
Secondly, many buildings aren’t owned by the businesses that occupy them. They are owned by folks who don’t live in town and who aren’t particularly invested in our town’s future. We can’t let the revitalization of our downtown be slowed by the apathy of out-of-town investors. We need to push property owners to be responsible.
I happen to like the initial approach of gentle nudging through cleanup days such as this (and slight community shaming) rather than heavy-handed ordinance enforcement. When a few businesses start to bloom, others are likely to follow suit.
A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say.
The associations committee was formed by the city council to bring together various economic interests – the TCCA, the mills, the Port, the media, TURA, the chamber – for the rather vague purpose of supporting industry, public facilities, civic uses of the town center, and tourism.
We talk a lot about tourism on the associations committee. How can we get more tourists to stay in Tillamook? How can we combat our image as a smelly “cow town”? Those are good questions, but I’m more interested in the people who live here.
How can Tillamook become a more liveable place? How can we make residents proud of being an industrious “cow town”? If you address the latter, you fix the former. People with pride in their community don’t have cobwebs in the windows downtown, they don’t allow abandoned properties to blight their neighborhoods. They attract visitors.
I firmly believe that with people and towns, you must first love yourself before anyone else can love you.
And I love Tillamook, but I love tough. I love her enough to point out her cobwebs and volunteer to clean them.
Do you have an idea for a cleanup or improvement project? Do you have a skill such as window painting? Can you lend your artistic talents?
If so, contact the Chamber or email me directly at email@example.com.